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story.lead_photo.caption Georgia forward Rayshaun Hammonds (20) moves the ball down the court during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas in Athens, Ga., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

It is being said over and over again on radio and TV, it is being written about over and over again in newspapers and on the internet.

The SEC is much better in basketball this season.

People who project the NCAA Tournament field are boldly declaring eight SEC teams will make the field of 68. A couple have even said there's a chance for nine.

Those people are usually close, but not always.

The top half of the league does look better, but some of that might be because Kentucky isn't dominating. The Wildcats are good, but they aren't great like most years.

In fact, they have fallen behind Duke and Kansas in the one-and-done race, although the focus stays on John Calipari and not Mike Krzyzewski or Bill Self. Calipari is easier to dislike after vacating Final Four appearances at UMass and Memphis.

Coach K is the winningest D-I coach ever. Self, well, he's been known to actually hang out with the media at the Final Four, have a cold one and share a few stories.

With Kentucky slipping, Tennessee and Auburn are the hot names in the SEC, and they do seem to be on the upswing. The Vols were 5-2 in nonconference games against teams from the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12.

There are other good leagues, but those dominate with NCAA Tournament bids.

On the other hand, the Tigers played only one name opponent and won. That was the UConn Huskies, and they are 10-9 and have RPI of 90, so that's not going to be a quality win on Selection Sunday.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville also counted on the Huskies, but the Razorbacks did have a huge win over Oklahoma. They also beat Minnesota -- which has a 75 RPI, about 25 spots to high to help -- and a loss to North Carolina. Considering the SEC was 15-22 overall against the other power conferences, a 2-1 record against those teams might help the Hogs.

Florida was 1-3, but the Gators losses were all to ACC schools. The Crimson Tide were 0-3, losing to Arizona, Texas and Minnesota.

To start the season, the Texas A&M Aggies were hotter than a Fourth of July picnic in New Mexico.

They went 4-1 against power conferences, although they didn't get anywhere near the ACC, and then hit SEC play with a thud that made them look more like fake news than good news. They dropped their first five SEC games before beating Ole Miss and Missouri. They had a chance for some payback last night when they visited LSU.

Mississippi State played it safe in nonconference and scheduled no one from a power conference and went 12-1, but reality is setting in on the Bulldogs since the night they shot 40 free throws to the Hogs' 12 and won. Since then, they are 1-4 with the only win against cellar dweller Vanderbilt, who by the way has two recruits on the McDonald's All America list.

No one ever said the Drew boys, Scott at Baylor and Bryce at Vanderbilt, couldn't attract players.

Anyway, right now the SEC looks to be in decent shape, although eight invites to the Big Dance would be a new record by two teams, and there's a lot of games to be played -- including 10 games this weekend against Big 12 teams in its challenge against the SEC.

Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee can't afford to lose to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State because of high RPIs by the Big 12 schools. Alabama and Texas A&M could help themselves with victories over Oklahoma and Kansas.

The SEC is going to end up beating each other up, and getting eight teams in is going to be difficult.


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Sports on 01/24/2018

Print Headline: Great 8 will attempt to emerge from SEC

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